Hey, They're Moving Ryan Reynolds' Consciousness Around Again

Apr 14, 2016

Here's a recipe for the ideal man: Take the speed and ruthlessness of a brain-damaged sociopath and combine them with the smarts and tenderness of a CIA agent who's also a husband and father. Yet for some reason, the new movie about this champion is titled not The Perfect Guy, but Criminal.

That apparently refers to Jerico (Kevin Costner), who lacks all decency and empathy because he was abused as a child by his father. (So he's a monster, but a victim, too.) Since he has "frontal lobe syndrome," he's the ideal temporary recipient of the consciousness of nice-guy spy Bill (Ryan Reynolds), who was just tortured to death by a Spanish anarchist with a Nordic name, Heimdahl (Jordi Molla).

There's something about Reynolds' male-model looks, it seems, that makes filmmakers want to disfigure him. Criminal is no Deadpool, though. It packs only a handful of ironic asides, and they're all allocated to Costner. (While we're on the subject of Reynolds' odd career, by the way, let's note that it's been less than a year since the actor was seen in Self/less, playing a body implanted with another man's mind.)

Bill dies in London, and has stashed a Dutch hacker (Michael Pitt) without telling anyone where the guy is. The computer whiz can control the U.S. military arsenal from his laptop, so he's frantically sought by CIA London station chief Quaker Wells (Gary Oldman with some sort of American accent). Also striving to make "a deal better than Snowden got" with the Dutchman are Heimdahl and the Russians — and, most likely, Apple and Google.

Wells calls a plodding American brain tinkerer, played by a lumbering Tommy Lee Jones and named Dr. Franks. (The family probably shortened its surname after relocating from the Old Country.) Franks springs Jerico from a cell that looks as if it had been designed for Hannibal Lecter and flies him to Britain. The brute receives some of Bill's memories, which come mingled with feelings for the dead man's wife, Jill (Gal Gadot), and young daughter, Emma (Lara DeCaro).

But Jerico is hard to control, and soon he's busted loose to terrorize both trendy coffee bars and working-class dives. His funniest moments come when he finds himself saying things Bill would have, and doesn't understand them.

Even the gags arrive in the company of bone-crushing violence, as Jerico finds himself at war with the CIA and the anarchists — led by Heimdahl's sexy lover/enforcer (Antje Traue) — as well as all sorts of ancillary law-enforcement types, who exist just to be bashed, smashed, or blown up.

The only person who doesn't seem out to kill Jerico is Emma, with whom the guy develops the inevitable special bond. Thank heaven for little girls.

Criminal was written by Douglas Cook and David Weisberg, who scripted The Rock, a nutty 1996 Nicolas Cage vehicle. The director is Ariel Vromen, whose The Iceman was a competent from-real-life 2013 drama that also involved mayhem and family values. But with its European locations, electro-thump score, and near-ceaseless violence, the movie plays like something tooled in French producer-scripter Luc Besson's factory for international action mashups.

Besson probably would have imagined a more timely threat than Spanish anarchism. He likely wouldn't have allowed Pitt to pronounce his Dutch character's name, Strook, as if it were an American one. Most importantly, he would brought a lighter touch to this silly-in-concept but earnest-in-execution trifle. So when Criminal hints at the possibility of a sequel, viewers might chuckle rather than cringe.

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